The Days Inn Sioux Lookout in northern Ontario points to a new horizon in hotel construction: shipping containers.

Ladacor Ltd., a Calgary-based manufacturer of modular buildings and structures, constructed the property’s 60 guestrooms from surplus steel shipping containers. It finished them to about 80-per-cent, including windows, doors, drywall, bathrooms and most plumbing and electrical work. The rooms were made at its Calgary facility and then shipped to the Sioux Lookout location where they were connected and finished. The hotel’s reception area and conference centre were built with the traditional stick-build method.

The guestrooms aren’t constrained to an actual container size — they were opened up to create standard room sizes. “Unless you saw how it was built, you wouldn’t know the hotel was made from containers,” says Joseph Kiss, president of Ladacor, who asserts Days Inn Sioux Lookout is the largest shipping container-based hotel in North America. “On the interior, you don’t feel the difference size-wise, and you don’t know the difference fit-and-finish-wise on both the interior and exterior.”

Modular building isn’t new, but it’s becoming more mainstream, as companies increasingly look for speed, sustainability and cost-savings. It’s not going to take the hotel industry by storm, but modular construction offers more options.

“[For Days Inn], it was an opportunity to get into a remote area where traditional stick builds would have been expensive, mainly due to the harsh climate and limited labour force,” explains David Blades, VP of Operations at Toronto-based Realstar Hospitality, which owns the master franchise rights for Days Inn in Canada. “So the nice thing with modular is you’re able to go into markets that traditionally you probably couldn’t get into.”

Another big advantage is timing. The property, which opened last December, was built in just 13 months as opposed to the estimated two-and-a-half years a traditional build would have taken because of its location. That means rooms can be booked much earlier. “With the Days Inn Sioux Lookout, if we shaved a year off the schedule, that means a year of hotel operations,” notes Kiss. “Any hotel owner can do the math on that one.”

Aside from the cost benefit (the price was undisclosed) there are also the environmental benefits. Due to trade imbalance, shipping containers that come to Canada from Asia are typically only used once, so repurposing them makes sound environmental sense. “There is a lot of interest around sustainability, green initiatives, repurposing and recycling,” says Kiss, adding that these interests all play into the trend towards modular construction.

Two more modular builds are on the books for Days Inn this year: a five-storey hotel in northern Alberta and a four-storey property in northern B.C. “And, we see a lot more coming up in the next few years,” adds Blades. “In remote areas, we can be up and running in half the time of a traditional build and save money.”

Volume 27, Number 4

Written By: Rebecca Harris

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